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Long lens landscape shooting: specifically where to focus!


BillyGoatGruff e2
7 191 199 England
19 Apr 2011 4:07PM
Hi all.

Here's a little poser for all the technical gurus out there in Epz-Land.

I'm given to understand that hyperfocal focussing works fine (although exactly what that distance is could be rather debatable!!) with wide- and very-wide-angle lenses, and that it generally doesn't apply too well (or is in fact completely inappropriate) with focal lengths above around 24 - 28mm for full frame sensors or say, around 16 - 20mm on cropped sensor cameras.
I'm fine with that and reckon I've got a handle on the concept and practice, so I really don't need it to be explained! Tongue

So:
What if, one doesn't want to use a wide or super-wide lens, or even a "normal" length lens?
What if one wants to use a telephoto lens for a landscape shot or panoramic?

Where would you suggest one pick one's optimum focus point using a telephoto or "longer-than-normal" lens?
Would you still use a hyperfocal distance chart, despite using a telephoto?
Would you pick a point a third up from the bottom of the frame, just to be on the safe side, hoping the depth of field is acceptable?
Would you just focus on your key subject and use f/11, f/16 or f/22 or higher, and hope you get sufficient depth of field?
Would you just use autofocus and let the camera decide for you? (I sincerely hope not! Smile ha ha!)

FYI: my query is related to my current telephoto set-up; Nikon D300 with either the Nikkor 16-85 (at the longer end, obviously!) or the Nikkor 70-300.

I'd be most interested in any opinions/advice.....Smile

I'm leaving my office now, but will try to pick up the thread when I get home (visiting relatives notwithstanding)....

Thanks for you time and expertise!

Bill

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spaceman 10 5.2k 3 Wales
19 Apr 2011 5:32PM

Quote: Would you still use a hyperfocal distance chart, despite using a telephoto?



Yeah.
BillyGoatGruff e2
7 191 199 England
19 Apr 2011 6:02PM
Well thanks, Spaceman.

That's really helpful.
discreetphoton e2
10 3.5k 20 United Kingdom
19 Apr 2011 6:28PM
I'd just point it where I wanted it, and use my DOF preview button.
You could also look at focus stacking.
BillyGoatGruff e2
7 191 199 England
19 Apr 2011 6:36PM
Cheers, David.
That's certainly a possibilty I hadn't been considering.
Gaucho e2
12 2.3k 2 United Kingdom
19 Apr 2011 7:11PM
I have to agree with Spaceman Smile It was easier when we had dof scales on our lenses though
mattw 10 5.2k 10 United Kingdom
19 Apr 2011 7:33PM

Quote:I'm given to understand that hyperfocal focussing works fine (although exactly what that distance is could be rather debatable!!) with wide- and very-wide-angle lenses, and that it generally doesn't apply too well (or is in fact completely inappropriate) with focal lengths above around 24 - 28mm for full frame sensors or say, around 16 - 20mm on cropped sensor cameras.


You can use hyperfocal focusing no matter what focal length you use. However do note that, as you increase the focal length, the hyperfocal distance is going to increase, and the minimum distance to expectable sharpness is also going to increase (for a constant aperture)

So with longer focal lengths, be careful with placing detail too close to the lens.
BillyGoatGruff e2
7 191 199 England
19 Apr 2011 8:19PM
Cool, Matt.
Pretty helpful.
Although I wasn't exactly contemplating shooting anything much close to hand, since that wouldn't really constitute a "landscape" shot; more of a close up and I'd be quite likely to go for a shallow DoF.

I'm really thinking about compressed perspective and more distant views and the possibilty of losing too much foreground even though this would also be likely to be quite far away. Since the distance scales on the lenses I have are rather sparse, to say the least, the notion of actually using the hyperfocal distance becomes somewhat academic, it seems to me!

For example:
With the 10-20 @ say 10mm, I can usually estimate where my hyperfocal point is. For instance, it could be 3 feet, which is within the realm of everyday experience. If, however, I'm using 270mm the hyperfocal distance could be 200 feet, which is much harder to estimate! (I know these figures aren't accurate - they are merely to illustrate the point)

I suppose what I'm after is people's ideas of a "correct" procedure with long lens landscape shooting, if such a thing actually exists!
mattw 10 5.2k 10 United Kingdom
19 Apr 2011 9:05PM

Quote:With the 10-20 @ say 10mm, I can usually estimate where my hyperfocal point is. For instance, it could be 3 feet, which is within the realm of everyday experience. If, however, I'm using 270mm the hyperfocal distance could be 200 feet, which is much harder to estimate! (I know these figures aren't accurate - they are merely to illustrate the point)


True, but if you are photographing

Quote:
compressed perspective and more distant views


Then chances are everything in the frame is going to be half a mile or more away - in which case you don't really need to use the hyperfocal method as you are not pushing the depth of field. Focusing at or close to infinity should be fine.
User_Removed 4 4.6k 1 Scotland
19 Apr 2011 11:12PM

Quote:
Although I wasn't exactly contemplating shooting anything much close to hand, since that wouldn't really constitute a "landscape" shot; more of a close up and I'd be quite likely to go for a shallow DoF.



Really? Many of the most highly rated landscape photographs have a very clear focus on a close-up foreground feature. So decent depth of field is necessary to get the foreground feature very sharp and the background reasonably sharp. With W/A lenses, that is easy but with something like a 200mm lens it is much more difficult unless you stop down to about f/32.

I would say that most of my landscapes are taken with lenses in the range 16mm to 70mm (FX), using either the Nikkor 16-35 f/4 zoom or the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom. Anywhere in that range it is feasible to get a foreground feature (yes, FilmForever, the dreaded boulders in the wee lochans on Rannoch Moor! Smile ) in focus and the entire background out to the horizon reasonably sharp without going smaller than f/16. At 16mm I might be talking about a foreground feature 1 metre from the lens while, at 70mm, I might be looking more at 3 metres.

Despite what the gurus and pundits say, to justify their existence, the concept of hyperfocal distance is not the be-all and end-all of dramatic landscape photography. Yes, it was nice in the olden days when you could stick the infinity symbol on the right-hand position of your chosen aperture on the depth of field scale and simply read off the closest distance that would also be in sharp focus - but most of us who were reared and weaned on such concepts can probably do much the same intuitively today. For those who have not yet developed the intuition, then, as mentioned in an earlier post, the DoF preview button is possibly one of the most under-used features of modern cameras but, once you get used to the intensity variations, they can be exceedingly useful for exactly the type of scenario the OP raises.
Overread 6 3.8k 18 England
20 Apr 2011 1:03AM
A point to add is that once you go below f13 on crop sensor and around f16/18 on fullframe your shots might gain in depth of field, but the overall sharpness will start to drop as a result of diffraction (actually in most cases its already dropping after around f8, but remains marginal up to around the limits stated earlier).

As for telephoto thus far the only good landscape shot I've taken was with my 70-200mm and I rather like it for being able to zoom into a landscape and pick out a feature, or content that a wide angle lens would gloss over in the background of the wider vista.
samfurlong 8 2.5k United Kingdom
20 Apr 2011 8:39AM
I wouldn't agonise so much. Focus a third of the way in and then use your DOF preview and aperture control to fine tune.

I love long lens landscapes, I am lucky to live in the Malvern Hills and I have some lovely landscapes of the hills on the Herefordshire / Wales border shot on a 500mm.
BillyGoatGruff e2
7 191 199 England
20 Apr 2011 8:57AM
Cheers guys.

Some very useful information and opinions here.
I'll have to ponder them some more - when my boss isn't staring at the back of my head! Grin

Most informative, please keep your thoughts coming.

Catch up later

Bill
User_Removed 4 4.6k 1 Scotland
20 Apr 2011 2:52PM
There is an article specifically about shooting landscapes with telephoto lenses in the May issue of Practical Photography that dropped through the letterbox this morning.
Pete e2
13 18.5k 96 England
20 Apr 2011 4:47PM

Quote:Would you pick a point a third up from the bottom of the frame, just to be on the safe side, hoping the depth of field is acceptable?

Forgive me if I read this wrong but it sounds like you're saying a third up the frame as in rule of thirds position and not focus point, which is front to back distance.
Hyperfocal guides suggest a third in front and two thirds behind. I never use scales but I use hyperfocal technique a lot when shooting close up items with landscape backgrounds, such as recently bluebells and later in the year fungi. With fungi in particular you need to ensure as much of the cap is as sharp as possible but you may want a clean background ( same goes for the many bird pics on here). So you adjust the focus point precisely and aperture to deliver maximum depth on the fungi and minimal focus on the background. Instead of the hyperfocal scale I use the depth of field preview button.
It sometimes means focusing on a spot closer than you (or the camera) normally would focus on. Same can go for landscapes and generally it's used to ensure the foreground fence or rock is as sharp as the mountains or trees behind them. With wide angles it's easy, with telephotos it takes more effort.

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